Defending Your Thesis or Dissertation

Certain special exams are required to earn an advanced degree in the research-based programs at Cornell. Often, these exams need to be taken with consideration of anticipated completion dates. See Taking Exams for more information.

All exam forms are available on our Forms page.

Exams Required for M.A. and M.S. Degree Defense

If you are enrolled in an M.A. or M.S. degree program, you must pass the final examination for the master’s degree. You can take this after all degree requirements have been fulfilled, but no earlier than one month before completing the minimum registration unit requirement.

To pass the exam unconditionally and receive a degree, all regular, proxy, and field-appointed members of the examining committee must assent that the exam was passed unconditionally. If you are enrolled in an M.S./Ph.D. degree program where the M.A. or M.S. degree is a prerequisite for your Ph.D., you may petition your special committee to approve combining the final examination for the master’s degree with the examination for the admission to candidacy.

Exam forms required for the master’s degree include “Schedule Master’s Examination” and “Master’s Exam Results Form and Instructions.”

Exams Required for Ph.D. Degree Defense

The B exam is an oral defense of your thesis or dissertation. This exam can be taken after completing all degree requirements, but not earlier than one month before completing the minimum registered semester requirements. At least two semesters of successful registration must be completed between the passing of the A exam and the scheduling of the B exam.

Exam forms required for the Ph.D. degree include “Schedule A Examination and Research Compliance Form,” “Schedule B Examination,” “A Exam Results Form,” and “B Exam Results Form.”

Q Exam

The qualifying exam, or Q exam, is required in some fields for Ph.D. applicants. This exam helps the special committee determine your ability to pursue doctoral studies, continue in a program, and tailor an appropriate program of study.